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Wisconsin lawmakers propose banning public safety from using Chinese-made drones

DJI Matrice 100
DJI Matrice 100
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 5:01 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Local legislators have proposed a bill that would ban local and state government agencies from buying or using DJI drones out of concern foreign governments may be watching what we’re doing.

DJI, a Chinese manufacturer, makes among the most-used brands of drones among local safety agencies.

Bill Bongle, a former police officer, owns Titletown Drone, which helps supply and train agencies with drones. He says if this bill passes, more than half of our local agencies would be without the proven, life-saving equipment.

Today drones are used frequently in the field by police and fire departments, using their thermal cameras to locate suspects or missing people or recognize hot spots in the attics and upper sections of buildings during fires.

The drones can also help keep officers out of dangerous situations. This past December, a drone is credited with playing a major role in a police standoff when the suspect fled a Hobart apartment complex.

“The legislators maybe had an intent to promote public safety. It’s actually done the opposite. So I’d hope that they would revisit this and maybe work with the public safety people to come up with a solution that everyone can live with,” said Bongle.

While there are other drone manufacturers besides DJI, Bongle says those can be expensive. For that reason, he feels if this bill passes most agencies wouldn’t be able to make the switch and would have to go without the technology.

“I think it would be very advisable if you’re going to pass legislation that is going to have a big public safety impact, that you at least ask the public safety folks to see how it’s going and how it will impact them, because you’re going to find out, they have already asked and answered these questions,” Bongle said.

If passed agencies would have one year to rid of their DJI drones. They would also have to share with the DOJ how they plan to dispose of the drones.

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